Red Dead Online announced amid crunch controversy

Jess Taylor Weisser gives us the latest on Red Dead Redemption 2 Online announcement... And the worrying news about how Rockstar are treating their employees.

Jess Taylor Weisser
29th October 2018
Image Credit: IGDB

Rockstar Games has announced that Red Dead Online - Red Dead Redemption 2’s multiplayer mode - will release in public beta in November 2018, after the game’s release on 26 October 2018. Featuring cooperative and competitive online gameplay, the beta will be accessible to anyone who owns a copy of Red Dead Redemption 2.

According to the press release, Rockstar anticipates initial technical issues and “turbulence” which will hopefully be ironed out following player feedback.

Using the game’s existing open world setting, players will have the choice to play solo, cooperatively or competitively - similar to the original Red Dead Redemption’s multiplayer mode. In an interview with IGN, Imran Sarwar (Director of Design) and Josh Needleman (Senior Producer) said they developed Red Dead Online having learnt from the successes and failures of the original game’s multiplayer, as well as Grand Theft Auto Online.

They want to repeat GTA Online’s successes, developing content that facilitates cooperative, narrative-driven multiplayer gameplay. GTA Online won’t be abandoned, though, as Rockstar plans to alternate content updates between GTA Online and Red Dead Online, encouraging players to play and swap between both.

Rockstar Games has previously drawn controversy over the expectation for employees to work crunch periods.

The announcement of Red Dead Online came shortly before recent allegations of ‘crunch culture’ within Rockstar Games, after Dan Houser stated in an interview with Vulture (published 14 October 2018) that “we were working 100-hour weeks” several times in 2018 to ensure Red Dead Redemption 2’s completion - spread evenly, this would be 14 hours a day for seven days.

Later, after extensive online outcry, Houser clarified that this only pertained to himself and the three others on the senior writing team, who worked 100-hour weeks to keep the game on target - employees were not expected to do the same.

After Rockstar lifted their social media ban and encouraged employees to go public about their experiences, many stated they had not personally worked 100-hour weeks but could not speak for the rest of their team. On 19 October Animation Development Assistant Flik Green tweeted about her experience: when working on the QA team at Rockstar Lincoln, her team was often expected to work 10-hour days for six days a week. At Rockstar North, conversely, she works a maximum of 50 hours a week, but is aware that some of her team has opted to work 70 or more hours a week - including, in one case, a 96-hour week.

Rockstar plans to alternate content updates between GTA Online and Red Dead Online

Commentators like Patrick Klepek have criticised Houser’s “100-hours” comment for glorifying ‘crunch culture’ and normalising worker exploitation in the games industry. Rockstar Games has previously drawn controversy over the expectation for employees to work crunch periods.

Ex-Rockstar PR employee Job J. Stauffer tweeted that working during Grand Theft Auto IV’s development was “like working with a gun to your head 7 days a week”. In 2010, spouses of Rockstar San Diego employees wrote an open complaint to the company about crunch conditions during the first Red Dead Redemption’s development, including mandatory Saturdays.


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